Unit One Seminar Reading Niccolò Machiavelli

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Alexander. To spend others’ money does not harm your reputation but helps it. It is only spending your own money that hurts you. There is nothing that uses itself up like generosity. For while you use it, you lose the power to use it, and you become either poor and despised, or, in order to escape poverty, you become greedy and hated. Above all, a prince must guard against being despised and hated, and generosity or liberality brings you to one or the other condition. However, it is wiser to be known as stingy, which brings you disgrace without hatred, than trying to be known as liberal, which necessarily makes you known as rapacious; having a reputation for that brings disgrace and hatred....

Proceeding to the other qualities mentioned before, I say that every prince ought to wish to be thought merciful and not cruel, but he ought to be careful not to misuse that mercy. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; nevertheless, his cruelty pacified the Romagna, united it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. If this is well thought through, it will be seen to have been more merciful than the people of Florence who, in order to avoid being called cruel, allowed Pistoia to be destroyed. Hence, a prince ought not to worry about a reputation for being cruel in order to keep his subjects unified and loyal, for with a very few examples of cruelty he will prove more merciful than those who, because of too much leniency, allow disorder to erupt, whence arise murders and lootings. For these harm a whole community, whereas the executions ordered by the prince harm only individuals. And of all princes, it is impossible for a new one to avoid the reputation of being cruel because new states are full of dangers. Virgil says in Dido’s words: “Harsh times and the newness of the state force me to do such things and to guard all my lands.” Nevertheless, the prince should be cautious in judging and acting, but not timid. He should proceed in a temperate manner, with prudence and humanity, so that overconfidence does not make him careless, or excessive suspicions make him intolerable.

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